”Gourmet Fast Food“
I strive to find and write about recipes for incredible dishes that are easy and simple.
Although this recipe is lengthy, it does not require many ingredients or time per step. We have worked on this recipe over the last four years, changing it a bit here and there, and each year it has gotten better.
I posted the pictures of our turkey swimming in brine and many asked me how we prepare it…so, I am going to share our “Ancient Hamilton Recipe”! This takes approximately 3 days from start to table.
How did the turkey become the centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table?
As I prepared to put this article together I was curious about how turkey was chosen to grace our Thanksgiving table. Through the years the turkey tale has had many interesting twists and turns.
If turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving (a much debated topic) it shared top billing on the menu with venison, other water fowl and seafood.
Many of our early presidents proclaimed Thanksgiving to be a day of thanks: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, even Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. But Thanksgiving was not deemed a National Holiday until 1941 when Congress passed the bill and FDR signed it. Thanksgiving was slated to be on the fourth Thursday in November.
Turkey became the Thanksgiving star for it’s size, it was large enough to serve the many family members who came together to celebrate. After WWII turkey stole the show as the star of the Thanksgiving table due to the breeding of larger hybrid birds and a viral USA marketing campaign pushing the turkey as a highlight of the holiday.
In fact, today 90% of all American families serve turkey at Thanksgiving and more than 240 million turkeys were raised in 2013.
I am not a chef or Betty Crocker, so if you have questions about cooking your turkey, get ahold of the experts! This article from People Magazine should answer most of your questions:
Or call the experts direct at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. Each year these turkey specialists help more than 3 million chefs get a fully cooked and flavorful turkey on the table!
A Drunken Twisted Turkey
Make sure that you give the turkey adequate time to thaw. Place it in the refrigerator days before cooking, or thaw in a skin of cold water, 30 minutes for every pound.
A 16 pound turkey would take 8 hours to thaw.
The Brine Process
(Remove the wrapping and the innards and wash the turkey before placing in the brine.)
“This is the secret that chefs never tell you about. It’s very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware. Brining is like a marinade, as it keeps food moist and tender. Brining or salting is a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of meat resulting in a moister product when it is cooked. Salt changes the structure of the muscle tissue in the meat which allows it to swell and absorb water and flavorings which results in a tender turkey or chicken once cooked.
Who wouldn’t want to eat a tender, moist, and flavorful turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner? Give it a try!”
- 5 bottles beer; best beers for this recipe: Blue Moon Belgian White, Honey Moon, Harvest Moon, Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale, or Winter Lager. I am looking for a beer with sweetness, orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger.
- 1 Gallon Water
- McCormick Pickling Spice
- 2 Cups Kosher Salt
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 10-12 oranges (6 for brine, 2 for marinade, and remainder to stuff in turkey when baking.)
A large container is needed to hold both the brine and the submerged turkey. I use a canning pot so that I can heat the brine and later add the turkey. Some use a tub lined with garbage bags or a chest cooler, you can enclose the turkey and brine in the garbage bags and surround with ice to keep at 40 degrees.
Pour 1 gallon water, salt, entire 1.5 oz. container of pickling spice, salt and brown sugar into a pot, bring to boil, stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat add 5 cold beers and let brine cool to room temperature.
I set the pot outside in the cold temperatures to cool quickly. When cool, submerge the turkey, cut the oranges into quarters, stuff the cavity full and float the remaining quarters in the brine.
The turkey tends to float in the brine so I place a dinner plate or 2 on top of the turkey to keep it submerged in the liquid. Place container in the refrigerator, surround the container with ice or place outside.
Do not leave your turkey in the brine too long, approximately an hour per pound. You want the brine to flavor and tenderize the turkey, but if you leave it in the solution too long the meat can become mushy.
For an 18 pound turkey brine for 17-18 hours.
Now Dry Him Out
After sufficient brining, remove the turkey from the pot, clear liquid and oranges from inside the cavity. Place on a broiler rack and let the turkey sit in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight to dry.
Many people choose not to brine their turkey as they feel that brining does not allow the turkey skin to brown when cooking. This step takes care of that, the skin needs to be dry to brown nicely.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Start Your Ovens!
Bake in a 325 degree oven, baking times vary per weight of turkey. Check the Butterball.com website for cook times. For an 18 pound turkey expect to roast for 3.5 to 4 hours.
Thanksgiving Day, cook the turkey. Before we cook the turkey we inject the meat for a bit more moist flavor.
1 bottle beer
48 oz. chicken stock
pumpkin pie spice
2 oranges, juiced
1 stick of butter (not for marinade, to place on top of turkey before baking.)
Mix ingredients together and use injector to put the marinade into the turkey. I first peel back the skin from the top of the turkey down into the breast area. The skin is still attached, just peeled back. Inject this liquid all over the turkey, the flavor will roast into the meat creating full flavored and moist meat.
Save remainder of marinade to baste the bird as it is cooking. Cut the stick of butter into 10-12 slices, place on top of bird and pull skin back over the butter, this will add flavor and fat to help brown the skin.
Place turkey in roaster, cut remaining oranges and stuff in the cavity for baking.
Cover the turkey for the first several hours of cooking, I place foil on top, so the skin does not burn. Baste several times while cooking with left-over marinade or with marinade resting in the bottom of your roasting pan.
The last hour of bake time I remove the foil cover to brown the skin. If you would like it to be well browned turn oven to 400 degrees for the last 20 minutes.
Check the interior temperature of the turkey before removing, 165 degrees in the breast indicates doneness.
Take turkey out and let it rest for 20 minutes or so before slicing!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!